If you want to take a look at the true potential of self-service networks, it's important to look at how the smartphone functionality is evolving. Even though smartphones are focused primarily on private, individual use and self-service digital networks are focused on a public, multi-user experience, the progress smartphones are making can tell us something about what a successful self-service network needs.
The newest functionality coming from the latest smartphone operating systems is the ability to predict and provide a user with information without the need for a prompt. The most notable effort from smartphone developers is Google's introduction of Google Now, which is available in its most recent Android OS versions.
Google Now is an app that runs in the background, basically scanning your phone and local geographical information in order to provide real-time data without the need for the user to access new apps. So based off of GPS localization, users automatically get weather and traffic updates. The app learns where your home and work are located and provides automatic traffic updates. It will scan your e-mail and pick up on any tracking notifications for incoming shipments, giving it to you automatically. The same goes for airline reservations; flight delays and arrival times automatically pop up instead of you needing to navigate to the information separately.
I took a trip to Kansas a few weeks ago and my phone automatically stored the location of the airport and had directions and traffic information all ready for me at the end of my trip.
The genius in this setup is that all of the minutiae and mundane little tasks that can take up precious seconds of our day are already done for us without thinking. We're so busy these days that we might even forget to do many of these tasks consciously — so these new apps do it for us. While it is a separate argument as to whether or not these new types of "smart" apps are a privacy concern there is no question that it is helping us give relevant information.
How is this relevant for self-service networks today? I believe if you look at the most successful and profitable self-service networks, they are the ones that embrace this mission of making life more productive and efficient.
- Redbox, the kiosk movie rental service available in many supermarkets and fast food restaurants, let you rent movies without having to make the conscious decision to drive to a separate store — i.e. easy and efficient.
- The idea of a soda vending machine could be seen as the simplest most rudimentary form of a successful kiosk model. It helps make a cold drink available to us whenever we might need it. We don't have to seek it out.
- Airline check-in kiosks have helped travelers save time from having to get boarding passes printed out from a flight attendant.
- Malls are starting to have self-service gift card kiosks that can print out and sometimes even personalize mall gift certificates without the need to find a customer service desk.
- My company is deploying large interactive maps along highways that display real time traffic information, emergency alerts and local business information.
All of these examples are embracing the idea of utilizing self-service networks to make life more productive. What other examples can you think of? What aspects of life do you think self-service kiosks could be in used to help make life easier?
Since 2004, Ionescu has built a proprietary software/hardware package for state tourism and hotels. Ionescu believes successful kiosk networks are built upon ongoing collaboration between the client and provider to develop flexible systems that clients and users are happy with for years.